Stories from Scott 2

Your story matters. You matter.

May 12, 2016

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Elementary teacher Nick South named as next principal of LES

Sometimes the little, gradual changes you make in your life make a significant impact. For Nick South, his decision to look for a summer job after the birth of his first child and while his wife was finishing her teaching degree would be one of those changes. This change would define his teaching career for the next 11 years and would show him what it would take to become an administrator — a role he will begin full-time in the next school year as principal of Lexington Elementary School.

What South found was a summer teaching position at The American School in England, one of five American schools in the European country. The school needed a journalism teacher, and South had a background in journalism.

“I thought seriously about other professions until teaching just came to me. To me, journalism was a way to reach the masses, to show and teach them about the world and its events,” said South, who initially majored in journalism at Indiana University.

“Teaching does the same thing but on a so much more broader scale.”

With his journalism education and his six weeks of experience backpacking through Europe, South applied for the position at The American School. He was offered a position at the school’s Summer Camp for Youth. In this role, he worked with international elementary students for seven weeks of enrichment learning. As part of the summer program, his students took field trips to London to study art, history or science.

In the three consecutive years South worked at The American School in England, he was named the director of the summer camp program. During that time, the summer camp program hosted about 200 students from 20 different countries for the seven-week summer enrichment learning experience. The school also once hosted a Saudi Arabian princess, South said.

“The experience in England was very administrative and gave me a good look into what it took to be an administrator. I was only director for a couple of years, but in that time, our enrollment nearly doubled, and we were running a very successful program,” South said.

After leaving the summer camp for a few years, South returned to teach photography. When South returned, the structure and leadership of the summer camp changed — The American School in England outsourced the camp to another local school, and The American School only instructed middle and high school students.

The experience stayed with South, and he applied his experiences — including a trip to the World Council of Curriculum and Instruction conference in Amritsar, India — to his classroom at LES.

“The greatest [moment] of which was my time working in England and bringing back that knowledge to use in my classroom. A chance to show students that haven’t experience the world what all is out there,” South said.

Even with all of his travels and opportunities to work with people around the world, South still appreciates his home and his school.

“There were opportunities. I was invited to attend University of Southern California, accepted into the Peace Corps, and offered a full-time position with the school in England. Something always drew me back here. This is a good place to live and raise a family,” South said. “The district has long been at the forefront of educational advances. It’s been great being part of something that’s seen some national notoriety in what we’ve accomplished.”

While he had some great moments overseas, he said the greatest influence on his career has been current LES principal and new Director of Elementary Education Chuck Rose.

“Without a doubt, the greatest singular influence on my career has been Mr. Rose. I’ve grown immensely as a leader and a teacher because of his guidance,” South said.

At Scott County School District 2, South’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.

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SMS teacher brings renewal through recycling program, helping others

Not only does Christine VonDissen help everyday items go through a process of renewal through her recycling program at Scottsburg Middle School, she also helps people go through a process of a renewal, caring for each one along the way.

“I have always been a helper, explainer, and supporter,” said VonDissen, a special education teacher at Scottsburg Middle School. “I played teacher from about 4-years-old on, holding class-time with my dogs and dolls; I guess it was just in my blood.”

Before coming to work at SMS, VonDissen worked with teenagers at Englishton Park in Lexington, Ind., a residential program that helped teenage boys with behavior disorders. The program was a partnership between Three Springs, the Madison Area Special Services Unit and the Indiana Department of Education.

“I always wanted to help troubled teens,” VonDissen said. “[Englishton Park] started out as a fabulous program, and we really did change lives. […] There were three teachers and each of us taught a wide variety so the boys were able to stay on track or get back on their academic track. Most of the boys were adjudicated there but private placement was always accepted.”

VonDissen’s willingness to help others, especially those in difficult circumstances, stems from her upbringing in Michigan.

“I think coming from such a caring family and being the youngest, so I was naturally spoiled with love, made me the caring person I am in life,” VonDissen said. “Being loved unconditionally and constant support showed me that others in life are not so lucky, so it is my hope to help change that. I love helping the underdog, especially to show others how wrong they are.”

Along with the love she received from her family, VonDissen learned about the world as a child through her father, who worked for American Airlines.

“My father worked for American Airlines, so we traveled quite a bit. With each visit to a new culture, he made it so important that we understood that there were differences in people and yet we are all similar,” VonDissen said. “He wanted us to appreciate the rich diversity of life. It made teaching a perfect match for me to spend my life with others.”

A few years after the Englishton Park program ended, the opportunity for VonDissen to work at SMS became available, and she took it.

“This is a fabulous school district, and when the opportunity became available at the middle school, I knew instantly that is where I wanted to teach,” VonDissen said.

At SMS this year, VonDissen started a school-wide recycling project. A similar project is used at Scottsburg High School.

“I reached out to see if the staff would be interested in participating in a recycling program; the response was tremendous,” VonDissen said.

To kick off the program at SMS, VonDissen contacted the Southeastern Indiana Solid Waste District and gave each teacher a recycling bin for their classroom. Each week, VonDissen and her class collect the recyclable materials — paper, which is called fiber; cardboard, which is corrugated not thick; No. 2 plastic; and aluminum, along with tin from the kitchen, she said.

On Mondays, the class goes to the sixth-grade wing; on Tuesdays, the class goes to the seventh-grade wing; and on Wednesdays, the class goes to the eighth-grade wing. Each day, the class checks the recycling bins in the gymnasium, the teachers’ lounge, and the media center. On Friday, the students perform a full sweep of the middle school to make sure no recyclables are left in the bins over the weekend.

Through it all, VonDissen encourages her students to make good choices.

“I always tell my students, ‘They cannot take away from you what you know.’,” VonDissen said. “Another big one is ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.’”

The small changes VonDissen makes in the lives of her students results in a big impact over time. At Scott County School District 2, VonDissen’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.

Upcoming District Events

Thursday, May 19, 2015

Scott 2 Retirement Dinner
Time: 6pm
Event Groups: All SCSD2
Location: Commons (Scottsburg High School)

Friday, May 20, 2016

SES 5th Grade Graduation
Event Groups: Scottsburg Elementary School
Location: Scottsburg Elementary School